5 Big Ten players to watch in 2012

Today, as we look ahead to the 2012 college football season, let's take a look at five players who will be on the spot in the Big Ten throughout the fall.

Click here for the Big 12 five players to watch, which ran on Monday.
Click here for the ACC five players to watch, which ran on Tuesday.
Click here for the SEC five players to watch, which ran on Wednesday.

Northwestern QB Kain Colter: We've seen Colter produce at the quarterback, receiver and running back positions during his career in Evanston. Now, with Dan Persa trying to make an NFL club, the offense belongs fulltime to the dual-threat Colter, who will now be the starting signal-caller. Once again, the Wildcats should have a dynamic offense, as they have one of the most underrated yet deepest receiver corps in the Big Ten despite losing star Jeremy Ebert. The team will also find out sometime in July the status of Kyle Prater, the USC transfer and former five-star WR who is the highest-profile recruit in the Pat Fitzgerald era. Colter's accuracy should continue to improve, and keep in mind he helped Fitzgerald's squad to a road upset of Nebraska last year. He is primed for a big 2012 campaign.

DeAnthony ArnettICONDeAnthony Arnett will boost the Michigan State receiving corps.

Michigan State WR DeAnthony Arnett: The former Tennessee wide receiver is eligible to play in 2012 after the NCAA granted his request for a residence waiver. Arnett transferred to Michigan State following his freshman year to be closer to his ailing father. It's a big addition to a Spartans offense that lost top receivers B.J. Cunningham, Keith Nichol and Keshawn Martin, as well as quarterback Kirk Cousins. The former Volunteer had 24 receptions for 242 yards and two touchdowns last season, and he'll be one of new starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell's top targets.

Ohio State WR Michael Thomas: The true freshman gave Buckeye fans a reason to be excited about the team's passing game this fall after recording 12 catches for 131 yards in the spring game. As many Ohio State fans painfully know, no player had more than 14 catches during the 2011 season. While we will see plenty of running from quarterback Braxton Miller as well as passes thrown in the direction of tight end Jake Stoneburner (despite his suspension), this is an offense that needs playmakers to emerge to keep defenses honest. While Thomas will go through the typical ups and downs of a freshman, his spring performance was quite encouraging.

Illinois RB Donovonn Young: With Jason Ford and Troy Pollard departing Champaign, Young should establish himself as the top running back for new Illini head coach Tim Beckman. He rushed for 451 yards and six touchdowns last season, and he should complement quarterbacks Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O'Toole, both of whom will compete for the starting job in the fall. Beckman loved running the football at Toledo, so don't expect Scheelhaase to shoulder the load on the ground. Young is big enough to take a pounding between the tackles yet fast enough to be a breakaway threat as well.

Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz: I expect Fiedorowicz to shine under new Hawkeyes offensive coordinator Greg Davis because the former Texas OC knows how to maximize his offensive personnel. Keep in mind that Fiedorowicz was a top recruit a few years ago but struggled with his blocking. His strength is catching the football, and the Hawkeyes will lean a little more heavily on the right arm of quarterback James Vandenberg this fall, so that should help the tight end's productivity. The 6-7, 265-pounder is a good route runner with soft hands and good speed who showed signs of life late last season. And he also is coming off of a strong spring.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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